An organisation does not believe that single men and single women can adopt and raise children. It would rather keep children in the orphanage.
Can we call their belief superstition, as it is not based on logic or any scientific evidence? Would the rationalists protest against such notions? Probably not. We simply assume that a person praying to a rock is ‘irrational’ and ‘unscientific’ and must be mocked, but a person who believes single men and women cannot be good parents is following ‘a different kind of logic’ that must be respected.
Be that as it may, before some celibate men in a spirit of mimicry, prevalent among fundamentalists around the world, claim that adoption by single men and women is ‘against Indian culture’, it is important to keep ourselves informed about the many stories of successful single parents–male and female–in Hindu mythology. Some of them adopted children; others raised their own, alone.
Rishi Kanva, for example, adopts an abandoned child that he finds in the forest and raises her as his own. She grows up to be Shakuntala who, when rejected by her husband, Dushyanta, raises her son, Bharata, on her own. The son becomes so great a king that the land he rules comes to be known as Bharata-varsha, now known as India.
The Upanishads tell the story of Satyakama who asks his mother, Jabala, about his father. She replies, “I don’t know. I had many men when I young servant.” Depending on our political beliefs, we can say Jabala was an exploited female servant or a liberated young woman. Rishi Gautama accepts Jabala as his student as he finds the child truly unafraid of the truth.
Talk about unconventional families. These are not to be taken literally, but they reveal a psychological comfort with diversity, which is the hallmark of Indianness.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.